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More than ever before in 2015, the world turned to search for its news. As stories big and small made the headlines, as we woke up on bright mornings to social media reports of events unfolding half a world away, or saw trending stories in our networks, we turned to our search engines of choice and searched for answers.
|Sean Gallup/Getty Images|
France’s capital city was hit twice in less than a year with terror attacks. The year was barely started when gunmen attacked the offices of satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, killing 11 people and injuring another 11 – before the attackers were killed in a confrontation with police, they had shot a further five people.
Two million people joined 40 world leaders in Paris on January 11 for a a rally of national unity. Less than a year after the Charlie Hebdo attacks, on November 13 2015, the world was shocked by a series of co-ordinated terror attacks on the city as terrorists attacked a cafe, restaurant, stadium and theatre.
According to Google, that day saw the highest search interest for Paris in the history of search engine, as people around the world turned to the internet to try and find out what was happening, and if loved ones in the city were safe.
Google’s trend data shows cities around the world asking questions such as “What is Pray for Paris?” and “What happened in Paris?” Microsoft’s Bing search engine shows top search terms including “Tributes for Paris”, “Paris sumbol”, “Peace for Paris” and “How to help France.”
|Annie Leibovitz for Vanity Fair|
When former Olympian-turned-reality-tv-star Caitlyn Jenner announced her identity as a transgender woman in April 2015, it was big news. When Jenner then posed for the cover of Vanity Fair magazine, online searches went stratospheric.
In Australia, Jenner was Google’s most-searched “global” person of the year, and high in the rankings for other countries around the world. According to Bing, following Caitlyn’s TV appearance and magazine interview, searches for “Caitlyn Jenner” increased over those for “Bruce Jenner” by 3-to-1. Microsoft reports Caitlyn Jenner was Bing’s Most Searched Celebrity, putting Miley Cyrus in the shade — and bumping last year’s “winner” Kim Kardashian all the way down to fifth place, like a Celebrity Big Brother runner up.
With over 366 million searches, Google reports that Caitlyn’s story also “sparked record interest in the transgender community — with more searches recorded than ever before” with questions including “What is transgender?”and “What is the difference between transsexual and transgender?” topping its list. Google also recorded a spike in interest in Transgender issues since 2004.
|Star Wars: The Force Awakens|
In December 2015, the seventh installment of the Star Wars franchise – The Force Awakens – was released in cinemas.
Star Wars has been something of a trending topic, on and off, since 2012 when Disney took over the popular franchise from its original creator George Lucas – with periodic spikes and surges in interest with each new poster, rumour or teaser trailer to hit the internet.
The film went on to break various box office records in its opening weekend in December 2015, with Google recording over 155m searches for the film – making it also the most-searched Star Wars film to date.
Google also reports an incredible 61,998,525 (and rising) YouTube views of the film’s official trailer, questions on the search engine including the ever-persistent debate “What order should I watch Star Wars?” and that the villainous Darth Vader from the original trilogy is the most searched-for character, bringing in 45% of all searches for the franchise’s characters.
|Niranjan Shrestha, AP|
When an 8.1 magnitude earthquake struck the Himalayan country of Nepal on 25 April 2015, “How can I help Nepal?” quickly became the world’s most-asked question on Google (beating typically popular searches “How can I make my cat love me?”and “Why do men have nipples?”).
Triggering a landslide on Mount Everest and killing 9,000 people, Nepal’s earthquake has the dubious accolade of being Google’s second most-searched earthquake of all time, after the 2011 earthquake in Tōhoku, Japan.
Over 85m people searched for information about Nepal’s earthquake, and how to help following the devastation. Around the world, search topics included “How can I donate to the Nepal earthquake?”, “How can I help Nepal?” and “Where can I donate tents for Nepal?”
You wondered: is there water on mars?
The red planet has captured our collective imagination for hundreds of years. In the 19th century, an Italian astronomer saw straight lines on the surface of Mars and described them as canals — even though he was mistaken, we have clung like a drowning man to the idea that there might be water and life on the planet.
In September 2015, the internet went wild when NASA confirmed that evidence shows there really is flowing water on Mars. David Bowie’s song Life on Mars was played on repeat. Dr. Karl took the nation’s questions live on Triple J. And in Australia alone, more than 10 million people searched Google for answers to their Martian queries.
While interest in Mars typically outperforms our other solar neighbours, Google’s search trends show a big spike immediately following the announcement with visitors asking questions like “What did NASA find on Mars?” (while hoping desperately was intelligent life, or at least water, and definitely not Martian killing machines) and “How long does it take to get to Mars?”
According to Bing, reports “searches for ‘Mars’ spiked more than 530 percent from August to September after discovery of water on its surface.”
With Google commanding 66 percent of online searches, it looks like in 2016 the world will continue to turn to it for answers to its questions – whether it is transgender issues, questions about cats and Star Wars, breaking news of tragedies around the world, or scientific discoveries, search remains our best indicator of what the world is asking. Celebrities and sport predictably outweigh politics and science, but what will be making you look in 2016?